We had a lovely evening last night, with Alex and her 19 month old daughter, Emma. We went to The Grill on New York Street, where the food was excellent, and Emma behaved impeccably. Back at Alex's flat nearby, Emma had a good run around, then went to bed.
This morning, we were expecting the other two boats in the basin to leave early to go down the Rochdale 9-- given that they'd told us they would be, and that the previous day they'd set off for the Ashton locks at 6.45am. When they were still there at approaching 8am, and we were pretty much ready to go, we decided to go for it. It turned out that their guide book said the locks were locked until 9am; they must have an old book, because they aren't.
Getting out of the basin and turning onto the canal was tight, and I wouldn't want to have to do it in a longer boat. Then there are a series of right angle turns, including under a building, to get onto the Rochdale Canal and head for the locks down to Castlefield. We got onto the lock landing, and Adrian went to prepare the lock.
There was another boat there, and as we went into the lock the chap made it clear he wanted to come with us. We were slightly dismayed that he was a single-hander, but in fact he was very eager to do his bit, winding paddles and opening and closing gates. The second lock is deep under a building, and is pretty gloomy and undoubtedly the scene of nefarious goings-on.
We tended to use just one gate. Many of the paddles have hydraulic gear that take lots of turns; some of the gates are opened and closed using a windlass-powered chain mechanism, as there isn't enough room for a full-length balance beam; and there was a lot of water coming down the flight, which meant getting a level sometimes took a while.
However, in spite of the difficulties, it's an enjoyable flight. The canal passes through the gay village of Canal Street, past old industrial buildings and new offices, alongside bars and cafes.
Having got to the top lock at 8am, we finished the flight at 10.30. Our locking partner said we'd probably saved him a good couple of hours.
We went over to the water point and filled the tank while starting a wash load. Then we had the lock-free Bridgewater Canal ahead of us. We'd done the locks in the dry, but by now the rain was starting. It was never particularly heavy, though, and wasn't nearly as bad as the forecast. The canal passes next to Old Trafford and a container terminal, before reaching the junction at Water's Meeting, where we turned left on the main line.
There's a very long straight section through Sale, much of it lined with boats at the Sale Cruising Club. The town has quite an attractive waterfront, with a pub one side and an arts centre on the other.
There's a mix of new and old buildings, including a linotype works, which looks in need of some work.
We stopped in Lymm, and just managed to tuck onto the end of the moorings, by tying the bow rope round the fence. We went into the rather nice litte town for shopping (the Spar has turned into a Sainsbury's Local, and there's a good butcher, a Post Office, and lots of other shops). There's a lake in the centre, which looked good even in the rain.
The rain has now started hard, so we're staying put. We're also keeping an eye on the longer term forecast for Monday, when we're meant to be doing the Manchester Ship Canal. At the moment, it looks as though it might be too windy -- but there's still time for things to change.
14 miles, 9 locks. (185 miles, 116 locks)